Indigenous·Editors' picks

CBC Aboriginal's top newsmakers of 2015

CBC's Aboriginal unit narrowed down the list to five topics that made headlines repeatedly throughout the year.

5 topics that made headlines repeatedly throughout the year

From left, clockwise: Justice Murray Sinclair, a residential school classroom, and residential schools survivors to Truth and Reconciliation recommendations on June 2, 2015. (Canadian Press/National Archives)

It's been a remarkable year for indigenous people in Canada, a year that included truth and reconciliation, how a young First Nation girl chose to battle cancer and the announcement of a long-awaited inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

Here are the top five stories of 2015, as chosen by editors at CBC Aboriginal. 

Truth and Reconciliation Commission final report

An exhaustive process of exposing the history and legacy of Canada's residential school system ended in 2015.

After travelling for six years, collecting 6,740 statements from witnesses and recording 1,355 hours of testimony, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission wrapped up with a four-day event in Ottawa on June 2.

On Dec. 14, the complete final report was released in an emotional ceremony that had commission chair Justice Murray Sinclair choked with emotion and newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wiping away tears.

Sinclair told a room filled with many residential school survivors and their families that the release of the final report marks the beginning of a new chapter in relations between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians.

"I stand before you here, hopeful that we are at a threshold of a new era in this country."

Missing and murdered indigenous women

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett announces the first steps for her government's promised inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women. (CBC News)

Several tragedies involving indigenous women and girls made headlines during 2015, including the murder trials for the killing of Loretta Saunders and Cindy Gladue and the arrest of a man accused of killing 15-year-old Tina Fontaine.

Then on Dec. 8, after a decade of pleas from victims' families and advocates, Canada's new Liberal government announced that the first phase of an inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls would begin.

It was an announcement welcomed by many, including Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose, who said an inquiry "is an absolutely non-partisan issue."

Record number of indigenous MPs elected

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould during the swearing-in ceremony at Rideau Hall on Nov. 4 in Ottawa. (CP/Adrian Wyld)

The longest federal election in recent history saw a record 54 indigenous candidates enter the race, and an unprecedented push to have First Nation, Inuit and Métis people head to the polls.

When it was over, 10 indigenous MPs were elected to the House of Commons — the most ever.

Two of those MPs, Jody Wilson-Raybould and Hunter Tootoo, would take key cabinet positions at a swearing-in ceremony that included eagle feathers, First Nation drumming, Inuit throat singing and Métis jigging.

Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde says Prime Minister Trudeau's appointment of two indigenous MPs to cabinet is part of a "new era of reconciliation."

It is time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations peoples.-  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

"It sends a powerful statement about inclusion and it sends a powerful statement about the reconciliation that is going to be required in rebuilding a new relationship between Canada and Indigenous Peoples."

"It is time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations peoples," Trudeau told the Assembly of First Nations, just days after forming government. "One that understands that the constitutionally guaranteed rights of First Nations in Canada are not an inconvenience but rather a sacred obligation."

Winnipeg crowned 'Canada's most racist city'

Shortly after the Maclean's article was published, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman organized a press conference to address racism against the city's indigenous population.

On Jan. 22, Winnipeggers woke up to a Maclean's magazine cover story that claimed "Canada has a bigger race problem than America. And it's ugliest in Winnipeg."

Within hours, the city's first Métis mayor, Brian Bowman, had assembled a cross-section of Winnipeg's indigenous community for a press conference to address the article head-on.

On Sept. 17, a two-day national anti-racism summit kicked off at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, hosted by Bowman, to look at ways to combat racism.

It was not without controversy, however, as many indigenous groups came forward saying they felt excluded by the very summit meant to address marginalization, and an alternative anti-racism gathering was held just outside the mayor's event.

​Makayla Sault dies

'Makayla was a wonderful, loving child who eloquently exercised her indigenous rights as a First Nations person and those legal rights provided to her under Ontario's Health Care Consent Act,' said Brant Family and Children's Services executive director Andrew Koster.

Makayla Sault, the 11-year-old Ontario First Nation girl who refused chemotherapy to pursue traditional indigenous medicine and other alternative treatments, died on Jan. 18, 2015.

Makayla's case made national headlines and ignited a debate about the validity of indigenous medicine and the rights of children to choose their own treatment. The Saults are from the New Credit First Nation near Caledonia, Ont.

Sault, and another First Nation girl of similar age, were treated at Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach, Fla.

The director of that spa, Brian Clement was later ordered to stop practising medicine without a licence and fined for representing himself as a medical doctor. Those charges were later dropped because of insufficient evidence.